Leafs vs. Sabres – Pre-Game

Leafs vs. Sabres – Pre-Game

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    The Leafs hope to get their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight when the Buffalo Sabres roll into the Air Canada Centre.  Toronto has gone five straight games without a regulation loss (3-0-2) and hope to continue their stretch of strong offensive performances (3.8 goals per game).  They’ll be in tough against a Sabres team that is back on the winning track after a slight skid, supported by one of the hottest goaltenders this season in Ryan Miller.

    The big lineup change for this Monday night match is the return of Mike Komisarek.  The steady defenceman will suit up in lieu of Garnet Exelby, who will join Jeff Finger as a healthy scratch on the blueline.  The forward corps will be unchanged from last Friday’s win over the Panthers.

    You just knew the Toronto media would do their best to sensationalize the Grabovski-Beauchemin scuffle from practice.  Thankfully, the team is not going to tolerate any such nonsense.  Francois Beauchemin told it like it is when he said “It always happens on every team I think at least once during the season. It’s not a big deal. Not worth talking about” at Monday’s optional practice.  Mikhail Grabovski bluntly added, “I don’t want to speak about this incident. Today is a new day. We have a game tonight and we’ll think about the game.”

    Speaking of the Belorussian pivot, he has received mixed reviews from media and fans alike as to his performance this year.  The growing pains to be expected in any sophomore not named Ovechkin or Crosby are evident, but Mikhail has been anything but a failure this year.  He consistently displays the effort and perseverance that inspire faith that he can achieve his eventual role as a second-line player.   Some have worried about his lack of goal-scoring output, but realistically he has thrived as a playmaking center.  Ron Wilson had this to say: “His line is on the ice for a couple goals just about every game. I don’t care if he scores as long as his line is producing and they are. He’s been playing with (Niklas Hagman) and he’s one of the reasons (Hagman) gets so much room out there.”

    On that note, Hagman received Third Star honours with the NHL after a monstrous five-goal output last week.  He, along with the likes of Phil Kessel, will need to provide a steady dose of offense if the Leafs hope to extend this winning streak.

    Here is the starting lineup as per TSN:

    Forwards

    Ponikarovsky-Stajan-Kessel

    Blake-Grabovski-Hagman

    Stempniak-Primeau-Kulemin

    Hanson-Mayers-Orr

    Defencemen

    Kaberle-Komisarek

    Beauchemin-Gunnarson

    White-Schenn

    Goaltenders

    Gustavsson

    MacDonald